Natural Gas glut may edge out coal for Electricity Generation
Oil resources remain elusive and expensive, buried deep under the sea or in countries where retrieval is difficult or politically complicated. But new energy developments involving widely available liquefied natural gas (LNG) may help North America’s electricity generation become more environmentally friendly.
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), there are approximately 40 LNG terminals serving North America, including 8 already working and the remainder in the planning or building stages. FERC’s role is to create standards for the industry and to coordinate closely with the Coast Guard, Department of Transportation, and individual state and local governments to ensure that safely and environmental protection requirements are met during construction and operating phases. While LNG reserves are abundant, the process of unlocking the reserves and providing them to the world remains complex.
The Barnett Shale, a 5,000 square mile underground geological formation beneath Fort Worth, Texas, and surrounding areas, has transformed the process of removing natural gas trapped in shale-rock formations. The Barnett Shale provides approximately 7% of America’s gas supply. Not without controversy, drilling in the area may be responsible for recent minor earthquakes in Texas.
New shale areas that could provide LNG are sprinkled across North America. With more proposed facilities coming on board in the U.S. and later in Canada and Mexico, increased supply has dropped prices over 60% since 2008. In the future, LNG could replace coal for electricity generation, thus shifting the balance of power in the energy realm. At this stage, no one really knows how much gas can be produced from shale deposits, so importing LNG is still a necessity. Large oil companies such as Exxon Mobil are beginning to invest in and partner with natural gas producers.